Re-Collection: Art, New Media, and Social Memory

Rinehart, Richard
Ippolito, Jon
MIT Press

In this collection of essays, Richard Rinehart and John Ippolito raise various technical and philosophical questions regarding the feasibility of preserving new media art in the long-term. Bringing to the fore the institutional, practical and lawful “triple-threat” that is giving rise to “the death of contemporary culture”, the writers discuss a wide range of issues that are enabling the deterioration of new media and installation art in archives and collections today, and thus obstructing the capacity for future generations to appreciate these works. In the face of the rapid obsolescence of formats and softwares that are relied upon by much video and virtual art, Rinehart and Ippolito suggest a radical reassessment of conventional preservation methods, throwing away with default old media storage strategies in favour of audio-visual emulation and hardware migration. Similarly, they examine how legislation surrounding intellectual property and copyright may simultaneously aid and impede access to online art forms in a world seemingly governed by social media and the ‘sharing’ of content. Perhaps most prominently however, the main concerns of this publication are the implications for “social memory” that these practical issues raise. In centuries to come, what will be said for the art of today if contemporary culture refuses to safeguard against its own destruction? It is therefore imperative that the documents of our digital age remain intact, with these institutional revisions ultimately being presented as crucial moral responsibilities for contemporary art collections of the twenty first century.

Aaron Shaw